Archive of December 6, 2007

World needs common witness of Baptists and Catholics to Christ, says the Pope

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2007 (CNA) - Baptists leaders from around the world met with Pope Benedict XVI this morning at the Vatican as the second round of Baptist-Catholic talks continued. Saying that the lack of unity among Christians contradicts Christ’s will, Benedict XVI told the Baptist delegation that the world needs “our common witness to Christ and to the hope brought by the Gospel.”

This meeting in Rome is the second round of ongoing discussions that Members of the Baptist World Alliance are holding with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The theme for this meeting is: "The Word of God in the Life of the Church: Scripture, Tradition and Koinonia."

That theme, the Pope told the delegates, "offers a promising context for the examination of such historically disputed issues as the relationship between Scripture and Tradition, the understanding of Baptism and the Sacraments, the place of Mary in the communion of the Church, and the nature of ... primacy in the Church's ministerial structure.”

In an approach that seems to be characteristic of all Benedict XVI’s efforts to promote dialogue, he said, "[i]f our hope for reconciliation and greater fellowship between Baptists and Catholics is to be realized," he added, "issues such as these need to be faced together, in a spirit of openness, mutual respect and fidelity to the liberating truth and saving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

"Today, as ever, the world needs our common witness to Christ and to the hope brought by the Gospel," Pope Benedict concluded. "Obedience to the Lord's will should constantly spur us, then, to strive for that unity so movingly expressed in His priestly prayer: 'that they may all be one. so that the world may believe.' For the lack of unity between Christians 'openly contradicts the will of Christ, provides a stumbling block to the world, and harms the most holy cause of proclaiming the good news to every creature'."


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Benedict XVI recalls Benedict XV and praises wisdom of the Church in the East

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2007 (CNA) - Among the many audiences the Holy Father granted at the Vatican today, one stood out for its historical significance. In an audience he gave to the Pontifical Oriental Institute, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about their founder, Pope Benedict XV, and praised their work to make known the outstanding heritage of Christian wisdom that the Church in the East has to offer.

Recalling the history of the Pontifical Oriental Institute for the 280 members at the audience, Benedict XVI explained that it was founded by Pope Benedict XV in 1917.

"The time of that Pope was a time of war," said the Holy Father, "while he himself worked for peace. To achieve peace he launched various appeals and even drew up ... a plan for peace, a detailed plan which unfortunately proved unsuccessful.”

"Nonetheless," the Pope added, "in order to ensure peace within the Church, he created ... three monuments of incomparable value: the Congregation for the Oriental Church (later renamed 'for the Oriental Churches'); the Pontifical Oriental Institute for the study of the theological, liturgical, juridical and cultural aspects of Oriental Christian wisdom; and the 'Codex Iuris Canonici'."

Noting his own "particular bond" with Benedict XV, Benedict XVI explained how his predecessor thereby favored the Oriental Churches. Under his care the Church in the East cam to "enjoy a regime more in keeping with their traditions, under the gaze of the Roman Pontiffs who have never ceased to show their concern with concrete gestures of support."

These communities have known "difficult periods" and "harsh trials," said the Pope. "Though physically distant from Rome, they have always remained close through their faithfulness to the See of Peter.”

In these times of trial, the Holy Father said, the eastern Church’s “progress and their firmness in difficulties would have been unthinkable without the constant support they were able to draw from that oasis of peace and study that is the Pontifical Oriental Institute, a meeting point for scholars, professors, writers and publishers, some of the greatest experts on the Christian East."

The Holy Father also singled out the institute's library for praise, calling it "justly famous throughout the world" and "one of the best on the Christian East." He also mentioned that he is committed to expanding it still further "as a sign of the interest the Church of Rome has in knowledge of the Christian East, and as a means to eliminate any prejudices which could harm the cordial and harmonious coexistence of Christians. I am, in fact, convinced," he added, "that supporting academic study also has an effective ecumenical value, because drawing from the heritage of wisdom of the Christian East enriches everyone."

"The Pontifical Oriental Institute," the pontiff said in parting, "represents an outstanding example of what Christian wisdom has to offer, both to people who wish to acquire an ever more accurate knowledge of the Eastern Churches, and to those seeking a more profound orientation of life according to the Spirit, a subject on which the Christian East can justly boast a rich tradition."

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HIV positive priest to plead guilty in Navy court martial

Quantico, Va., Dec 6, 2007 (CNA) - A Catholic priest who is also a U.S. Navy chaplain will plead guilty Thursday to charges involving sexual misconduct. 

Lt. Cmdr. John Thomas Matthew Lee, 42, faces a general court martial on charges of sodomy, aggravated assault, indecent assault, fraternization and conduct unbecoming a military officer. 

It is unknown which charges he will plead guilty to, but if convicted on all charges he faces life without parole.  All of the sexual offenses involve men, and the priest is also HIV-positive.

“He has entered into a pretrial agreement with the government that will substantially
reduce his exposure to confinement,” said Lee’s attorney David Sheldon. “He’s extremely remorseful about what happened and about his conduct, both as a chaplain and as an officer. He will take responsibility for what he has done.”

When asked how long Father Lee has known he has had HIV, his attorney answered, “I think I’ve seen reports that say [that] since May 2005.”

Father Lee was ordained in the Archdiocese of Washington in 1993.  He was assigned to a parish in Hyattsville, Maryland from 1993 to 1996, and was a chaplain at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland from 2003 to 2006.

Upon learning of the allegations against Fr. Lee from the Navy in June, both the Archdiocese of the Military and the Archdiocese of Washington immediately suspended his faculties as a priest. Father Lee was relieved of his military duties in June.

Paul Sexton, a former sonar technician who worked with Father Lee on service projects in Hong Kong, South Korea, and Hawaii, described his experience with him.  “Every time we had one of these projects, we would talk,” he said. “He was a role model for a lot of us. I thought he was fantastic. He was one of those junior officers who you could talk to about anything. He was more a confidant than a political figure.”

Sexton said that during that time, he never heard or saw Lee behave inappropriately.  “He was a fantastic person,” he said.

Over the past thirty years, more than 25 priests who have been in the Archdiocese for Military Service have faced allegations of sexual misconduct.  The archdiocese has one of the largest member populations in the United States, and its ministry is worldwide.

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Pope Benedict receives President Topi of Albania

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2007 (CNA) - Just days after the December 4 accord between the Vatican and Albania was reached, the Pope received the President of the Republic of Albania, Bamir Topi in an audience today. 

"The president conveyed his gratitude to the Catholic Church for the help she offers the Albanian people, especially through educational and charitable institutions,” reported the Holy See’s Press Office.  He also expressed happiness for the December 4 agreement with the Vatican regarding fiscal and economic matters.

The pact between the countries regulates “the fiscal status of Catholic Church organizations in Albania, the economic administration of such structures, and the contributory- insurance scheme for the non-Albanian religious and lay personnel who serve in them."

The Albanian president explained that it was “his hope that such collaboration may continue, also from a cultural and spiritual standpoint.”

"President Topi explained the steps recently taken by the Albanian government to resolve the country's main difficulties, establish a State of law, and proceed towards European integration. Finally, attention turned to a number of bilateral and regional questions; concerning the definitive juridical status of Kosovo, talks dwelt on the need to bear in mind the fundamental requests of the parties and to prevent any recourse to violence."


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Protestors beaten, arrested in Cuban church before Mass

Havana, Cuba, Dec 6, 2007 (CNA) - Plainclothes police burst into a Catholic church in eastern Cuba, beating and using pepper spray on a group of dissidents gathered there, Reuters reports.

The incident took place Tuesday in Santiago, Cuba’s second-largest city, at the parish of Santa Teresita.

Police arrested five people who were among a group of two dozen opponents of Cuba’s Communist government.  The protestors had marched through the streets of Santiago decrying the detention of a fellow dissident.  Dressed in black, they had arrived at the church to attend Mass.

The police kicked their way in as the parish priest Father Jose Conrado Rodriguez was dressing for evening Mass.

"I told the police they acted like barbarians. They kicked their way into the parish, beating people and spraying gas in their eyes," Father Rodriguez said.

Father Rodriguez himself is an outspoken critic of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.  In a 1994 sermon, he read a letter he wrote to Castro criticizing the Cuban Coast Guard for ramming a tugboat that had been commandeered by refugees fleeing to the United States.  40 people drowned when the tugboat sank.

Jose Felix Perez, a spokesman for the nation’s Catholic bishops, commented on the incident.  "We hope it is an isolated thing. The fact that the police burst into a church is serious," he said.  Relations between the Church and the ruling Communist party have improved in recent years.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation condemned the incident as a "most serious and almost unprecedented act of political repression," and called for a government inquiry.


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Catholics play role in closing of abortion mills in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Dec 6, 2007 (CNA) - The Spanish daily “La Razon” highlighted this week the pressure by Catholic groups which forced the closing of several controversial abortion mills in Barcelona, where abortions up to the eighth month of pregnancy were being performed at expensive rates.

According to the newspaper, the action of Catholics “has resulted in bringing abortion back to the forefront.”  The complaint filed by E-Cristians in Barcelona gained a response on November 26, when a judge ordered that four abortion centers operated by Dr. Carlos Morin be shut down.

The newspaper also acknowledged the role of, which last week convened a massive demonstration outside the Ministry of Health in Madrid and demanded “investigations into abortion establishments and, once demonstrated how they do not follow the law on abortion, that they be closed.”

La Razon also mentioned the Institute for Family Policy, “another Christian-based platform that has redoubled its efforts in favor of life since the court order to close the four abortion centers in Barcelona.  Its president, Eduardo Hertfelder, sent a letter Monday to the Minister of Health ‘demanding immediate publication of the data on deaths by abortion in 2006’.”

Lastly, the daily quotes the president of the Provida Association of Madrid, Jesus Poveda, who has joined in the complaints against the abortion centers.  “Poveda, a unique figure in the pro-life cause, has expressed his joy over the closing of the clinics and has recalled that ‘in every abortion a child dies and a mother cries’,” the newspaper reported.

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Vatican appoints Ruthenian bishops in U.S.

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2007 (CNA) - Today the Vatican announced the appointment of two Ruthenian bishops in the United States: Bishop William Skurla and Msgr. Gerald Dino.

Ruthenian Catholics, under the Byzantine Eastern Rite, come from region of present-day Slovakia and Ukraine, and came into communion with Rome in 1646.

Bishop William C. Skurla of the eparchy of Van Nuys will shepherd the eparchy of Passaic.  His new eparchy will consist of 21,808 Catholics and 81 priests.  Eparchies are the rough equivalent of a diocese in the Roman rite.

Bishop Skurla was appointed as the third bishop of Van Nuys and will now succeed Bishop Andrew Pataki who recently resigned.

Msgr. Gerald N. Dino has been appointed as the head of the eparchy of Van Nuys.  The current administrator of the eparchy of Passaic and pastor of the Church of St. George in Linden, New Jersey was born in 1940 in Binghamton, NY and was ordained in 1965.  He will serve 2,862 Catholics and 24 priests.

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Australian Catholic Church running ads in movie theaters

Sydney, Australia, Dec 6, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in Australia on Wednesday debuted its first ever movie advertising campaign, CathNews reports.

The advertising targets those who might be more open to God during the Christmas season.

The cinema ad is brief and non-intrusive, showing a montage of images of Catholic life.  It asks, “Have you ever wanted to know what Catholics believe?”

The ads will run during the animated film “The Bee Movie” from December 6-19, and during showings for the movie “Atonement” from December 26 to January 9.

Archbishop John Bathersby, Chairman of the Bishops Commission for Mission and Faith Formation, said the goal of the advertisements is to invite people to translate their Christmas experience into lasting peace by finding out more about Jesus Christ through the Catholic Church. 

The timing of the advertisements was no accident.

“Boxing Day is the biggest movie-going day of the year and we are excited about this new method of taking the message of Christ and the Church out to the broader Australian community,” the archbishop said.  He noted that the New Year was a time when people reassess their lives and look for what is missing from them.

“Perhaps… they will be prompted to find out more about how the Catholic faith can help them find the peace they are searching for,” Archbishop Bathersby said.

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Bishop to send 500 missionaries to evangelize poor areas in Peruvian port city

Lima, Peru, Dec 6, 2007 (CNA) - On December 16, more than 500 missionaries from the Diocese of Callao will be commissioned by their local bishop, Miguel Irizar, to evangelize house by house in the poor section of Pachacutec.

Beforehand, the bishop will celebrate a Mass in which he will give each participant the missionary’s cross, which he or she will carry with them as they evangelize.

The hundreds of missionaries were prepared throughout 2007 in various parishes in Callao, Peru.

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Vatican Radio staff members begin formation courses on culture and humanism

, Dec 6, 2007 (CNA) - Vatican Radio has begun a series of formational courses that will allow its staff to learn its own history by looking towards the future.  The courses began with the theme, “Vatican Radio: mission and organization. Spreading the magisterium of Benedict XVI in the cultures of today.”

“We are at the service of the Pope in his universal mission in order to contribute to making known his magisterium which is a service to the Church and is full of direction for the men and women of our time,” said Father Federico Lombardi, director of Vatican Radio and of the Holy See’s Press Office.

As the Holy See’s radio station, Father Lombardi explained, “We have the mission of building up a great human family, which knows no boundaries and is a great force of peace, hope and reconciliation.  We have the mission of promoting a great dialogue of truth in the truth,” he said.

Reflecting on its 76 year history, Father Lombardi recalled that in a short period of time, “Vatican Radio grew so much that it was able to provide encouragement to the peoples that fell victim to the tragedy of the Second World War.  A word of peace, of hope, of support, of the future, which led the station, between 1940 and 1946, to broadcast over a million messages about those who had disappeared and to serve as a place of information and communication between families, soldiers and prisoners.”

Today Vatican Radio has nearly 400 employees of 70 different nations.  Each day there are 64 and half hours of programs broadcast live in 29 languages, while the website is offered in 30 different languages. The total broadcast hours per week number 24,000.

Others scheduled to address the Vatican Radio staff include Father Andrzej Kropowski, program director of the station, Alberto Gasbarri, head administrator, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, undersecretary for Relations with States, and Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

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Polish bishops request meeting with new government to prevent attacks on human life

Warsaw, Poland, Dec 6, 2007 (CNA) - Polish media is reporting that the bishops of that country have requested to meet with officials of the new administration in order to discuss ways to prevent new anti-life measures, such as public funding of in-vitro fertilization, from being implemented.

The Polish newspaper Dziennik quoted Bishop Slawoj Leszek Glódz of Warsaw as saying the bishops hope to convince the administration of Donald Tusk to reconsider its positions.

A few days ago, Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw said the government’s support of anti-life procedures “is unacceptable for Catholics.”  According to the newspaper, at the eventual meeting the bishops will also discuss the ratification of the European Letter of Rights, a document which could open the door to the legalization of homosexual unions and euthanasia.

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Search for truth is part of nature of Catholic university, says president of Italian bishops

, Dec 6, 2007 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Genoa and president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, said this week the “passionate search for truth” is part of the nature of the Catholic university.

During a Mass for the opening of the 2007-2008 academic year at the Sacro Cuore Catholic University in Rome, Cardinal Bagnasco stressed that “man cannot live on bread alone,” but that he must seek the truth “from the world that surrounds him,” and especially he must “seek the truth within himself.  He needs to know his origins and his destiny.  Only this knowledge will lead to wisdom and only this awareness will guide him to create culture in a singular and social manner.”

To not seek out such metaphysical truth is to lack any reference point, the cardinal continued.  Every choice is reduced to what is immediate, which is “quickly consumed in order to move on to something else, and then something else after.  Everything becomes the same and becomes insignificant.  If there is nothing worth dying for, then there is nothing worth living for,” the cardinal said.

He noted that young people instinctively sense this and that they seek the truth. He also addressed professors and reminded them they are “teachers of life.”  “Within our daily tasks, God asks us to do not only the best, but also all that it is within our reach to seek out, build up and resolve,” he added.

Only then will human dignity, freedom and intelligence overflow, he said, and man will realize that understanding comes “not only through reason and intelligence but through everything that we are and we have.”


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As president Romney would not serve “one religion”

Washington D.C., Dec 6, 2007 (CNA) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivered a historic speech this morning on the role that faith would play in his government. In his words, he would not serve “one religion” if he is elected as president of the United States. 

Squaring off against those who “feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered,” the presidential contender invoked the nation’s founders. When the U.S. was in peril, Romney noted, the founders “sought the blessings of the Creator.”

The former governor of Massachusetts coupled freedom and religion together saying, "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom….Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."

With the George Bush Library in College Station, Texas as his background,
Romney drew upon the legacy of John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech on his Catholicism.

"Almost 50 years ago another candidate from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for president, not a Catholic running for president," Romney said.  "Like him, I am an American running for president. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith."

"When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God,” he told his listeners. 

“If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest.  A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States," Romney said.

Yet he did little to address those who want to bring a discussion of the theology of Mormonism into the presidential debates.

Instead, Romney explained that doing so “would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution.”

The Republican contender only flirted with the topic saying, “[i]t is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America.”

According to Romney, the American political discussion should focus on a “common creed of moral convictions.” 

Deriding those who have taken the notion of the separation of church and state “well beyond its original meaning,” Romney said that they “seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God….It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.”

Romney went on to describe the common values of all Americans by recalling his childhood upbringing: I was taught in my home to honor God and love my neighbor.  I saw my father march with Martin Luther King.  I saw my parents provide compassionate care to others, in personal ways to people nearby, and in just as consequential ways in leading national volunteer movements," he said.

The presidential candidate related that his faith is also grounded on those same truths and that those convictions “will indeed inform my presidency."

In related news, FOX News reports that Romney stressed on Thursday that he believes "Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior of mankind," but explained that his beliefs about Christ differ with those of followers of other faiths.

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CDF to release important document on Evangelization and Catechesis

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2007 (CNA) - The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), headed by Cardinal William Joseph Levada, is about to release an important document on evangelization and catechesis, Vatican sources told CNA this week.

According to the Vatican sources, the document, which could be made public this Advent, “can be regarded as an application of the principles of the document “Dominus Iesus” to the way evangelization is transmitted and catechesis is taught within the Catholic Church.”

In “Dominus Iesus” the CDF, then under the leadership of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, clearly established the differences between the Catholic Church and other religions including other Christian denominations. “Dominus Iesus” states that only the Catholic Church possesses the fullness of the Christian faith. 
According to sources consulted by CNA, the new document on evangelization will stress the need to make the person of Jesus Christ, in his role as God incarnated to bring the full revelation of God’s plans through the Catholic Church, the corner stone and center of every program of evangelization and catechesis.

The intention of the document, according to the source, is “to bring back the centrality of Jesus to the programs aimed at transmitting the faith to future generations, since several of these programs are centered on feelings or confused ideas about the teachings of the Church on the nature of Jesus.”

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